Honesty in the Picture Pen

We see gobs and scads of cattle photos- show cattle, bulls, and females- daily on Facebook, online auctions, and in the stacks of catalogs that find their way to our mailbox. Some of the photos are poor photos, some of the photos are great, and some of them have been obviously altered.

This photo of Gabel Farms’ Thug is one of my favorites. He was a tremendous steer no matter how you looked at him.

The name of the game in taking livestock photos is to make a good one look even better and doing so is a craft I take seriously. I also take seriously the fact that my family’s reputation or the reputation of my client lives in that photo.

When I began, I took a casual photo of some heifers and I photoshopped a white pipe fence out of the photo. I didn’t alter the cattle to misrepresent them but I had another photographer tell me I had gambled my family’s reputation by altering the photo. It bothered me enough that I spent many hours to improve my photos to the point no editing would be necessary. In fact, I no longer even put my name on the photos I take. I do this in part to allow the cattle to make the noise and in part to not even tempt people to think the photo has been altered.

Misrepresenting cattle isn’t new and it isn’t going to stop. It happens frequently enough that we had several people call during our online sale to request a photo taken with a cell phone rather than just the official photo. We happily sent them one because we stand confident knowing that while the picture does exactly what it should, it does it honestly.

 If I ever find myself needing a reminder of why honesty and cattle marketing have to live hand in hand, it is standing at the side of the pen. She’s in pigtails, sparkly boots, and she looks at our cattle and sees pure potential in a fluffy eared package.


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